Feature

55 Years of The Human Revolution

A Textbook for Kosen-rufu

Sunrise light shining and reflecting on the right wing of the Kinderdijk windmill, the UNESCO world heritage monuments in Alblasserdam, South West of Rotterdam, Netherlands


Soka Gakkai President Ikeda first began composing his serialized novel The Human Revolution on December 2

Illustrations courtsey of Seikyo Press

, 1964. He wanted to record for posterity the truth of his mentor second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s life and efforts to awaken 750,000 Bodhisattvas of the Earth in his lifetime. This month marks the 55th anniversary of the start of The Human Revolution.

In August 1957, sensing his own declining health, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda stayed in Karuizawa to escape the Tokyo summer heat. This was just eight months prior to his death. On this particular occasion, Mr. Toda invited the young Daisaku Ikeda to Karuizawa with him.

In one of their conversations during their stay, the subject turned to Mr. Toda’s recently published novel, Human Revolution. His novel told the story of its protagonist, Mr. Gan, who strove alongside his mentor, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. It ends with Gan, who represents Mr. Toda, vowing in prison to dedicate his life to kosen-rufu. However, too embarrassed to write about himself, Mr. Toda did not include his efforts after his release from prison.

On August 14, 1957, which marked exactly 10 years since his first encounter with his mentor, President Ikeda vowed to record and communicate the truth of his mentor and the Soka Gakkai’s postwar growth in a sequel he named The Human Revolution.

On December 2, 1964, President Ikeda began writing the manuscript of The Human Revolution, where he appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto, in Okinawa, Japan, a place where the people had experienced the sufferings of war. He writes: “[Shin’ichi] would read reference materials for the novel while traveling from place to place and sketch out the unfolding plot, which he would then set down on paper early in the morning or late at night. This was a demanding personal challenge, but he continued writing as if he were composing letters of encouragement to his fellow members; all the while, he communicated in his heart with his mentor, Josei Toda” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, p. 52).

The Human Revolution was written over the course of 28 years, and the final installment was completed in November 1992. President Ikeda completed the novel with the spirit that it would help many individuals carry out their own human revolution and reveal their inherent potential. He writes: “The life of my mentor constituted a model for the manner in which an individual could carry out a splendid human revolution within his or her own life. If I could capture in writing Mr. Toda’s spirit of sincerity and truth, I was sure it would open the way for a human revolution in the lives of all persons. ‘A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind’—this was the conviction that dominated all my writing” (The Human Revolution, p. viii).

In 1993, President Ikeda started writing The New Human Revolution as a continuation of The Human Revolution, and completed the final installment of the 30-volume series on August 6, 2018. For 54 years, he dedicated his life to recording the history of the Soka Gakkai and the subsequent spread of Buddhism throughout the world in these two novels, which SGI members regard as the textbook for kosen-rufu. Furthermore, The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution tell the story of disciples carrying on the vision of the mentor in a shared struggle to work for the happiness of all humanity.

To mark the 55th anniversary of the start of The Human Revolution, its Epilogue is reprinted here.

SGI President Ikeda writes while on a train from New York to Washington, D.C., with the determination that the sun of hope would always rise in the hearts of fellow SGI members, January 1975. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Cherry blossoms danced in the wind, as if bidding a final farewell. The day of my mentor’s funeral, and how I stood, with a thousand emotions in my heart, gazing up at the blue sky spreading out beyond the delicately falling cherry blossoms, remains indelibly etched in my memory.

On April 2, 1958, my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, died peacefully at age 58.

His life had been as pure, noble and fresh as those cherry blossoms. My mentor had struggled against the cruel oppression of the military government and stood alone in a war-ravaged, defeated Japan to build a citadel of peace for all humanity. He took up the cause of kosen-rufu in exact accord with the will of Nichiren Daishonin, bringing Nichiren Buddhism to life in an age when it was on the verge of perishing. He dove into the anguished, suffering masses of the people. Talking with them, sharing their laughter and their tears, he lit the torch of happiness for 750,000 households.

But this peerless leader of Buddhism was not understood by his contemporaries in Japanese society. Instead, we might say that his life ended in the midst of misunderstanding and defamation toward him.

In my youth, I vowed to create a written record that would convey the truth about my mentor. This was because I had resolved in my heart that my mission as his disciple was to declare my teacher’s magnificent accomplishments to the world. I felt that unless his selfless struggle to propagate the Law was properly communicated, transmitting this Buddhism to future generations would be impossible.

Ultimately, President Toda’s life itself was an example of a single individual’s sublime human revolution; I was convinced that chronicling it would make it possible for multitudes of people to pursue that same path.

Soon after Mr. Toda died, I began to formulate the concept for this work. What troubled me most was where to begin.

Under the pen name Myo Goku, President Toda had written and published a single-volume novel titled Human Revolution, in which he depicted himself as the main character, named Mr. Gan. That novel ended with Gan’s realization in prison that he was a Bodhisattva of the Earth who had been present at the Ceremony in the Air described in the Lotus Sutra, and with his determination to embrace the noble mission of widely propagating the Law as his own personal calling and lifework. In this way, my mentor committed to writing the state of life he had attained through his awakening in prison.

To be aware of one’s mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth gives essential meaning to one’s existence, inspires an awakening to one’s genuine humanity and becomes a supreme source of value-creation for one’s life. It also serves as a motivating force to transform the lesser self, which is bound by self-concern, in the direction of altruism, allowing for the establishment of a greater self capable of embracing all humanity. Wanting to teach us that herein lies the ultimate principle known as “human revolution,” my late mentor thus set out to record his own experience in the form of a novel.

After his release from prison on July 3, 1945, he put into practice the profound determination he had arrived at, and in the process, revealed the concrete means for achieving human revolution. For this reason, with the intention that my novel The Human Revolution be a continuation of President Toda’s, I decided to begin writing from the point of his release from prison.

I announced my aim to begin writing this novel on the occasion of my mentor’s seventh memorial service (marking the sixth anniversary of his death) in 1964, and began work on the first installment while in Okinawa on December 2 of that year.

Twenty-eight years have passed since then, and now at last this 12th and final volume is in the process of being published in book form.

I completed the manuscript on November 24, 1992, with the inscription, “Dedicated to my late mentor, Josei Toda. By his disciple, Daisaku Ikeda.” As I wrote this, I envisioned my mentor’s smiling face. I am uncertain about how adequately I have been able to record the whole truth of my great teacher’s life, but I nevertheless now savor the profound joy of having fulfilled one of my duties as a disciple.

In one sense, through writing The Human Revolution I have kept up a day-to-day dialogue with my mentor. Particularly in writing this 12th volume, which chronicles President Toda’s life from August 1957 up through his death, there were many times when I, recalling those final days, found myself swept by powerful emotions. During that period, though he was growing weaker with each passing day, he summoned forth death-defying energy and mounted his final struggle for kosen-rufu. Aware of his own approaching death, he waged a sublime battle against the limitations of his own mortality.

In the midst of this struggle, on September 8, 1957, he delivered his historic Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. This constituted the first of his final prescripts to his successors for the sake of the future.

Then, that November, President Toda collapsed from illness while preparing to make a trip to Hiroshima to encourage the members there. The day before, he had strictly admonished me for trying to dissuade him from going. “As an emissary of the Buddha, I cannot turn my back on something once I’ve decided to do it! I will go, even if it kills me!” This cry, which arose from his fervent fighting spirit, still echoes in my mind.

Mr. Toda’s deep, indomitable resolution even forced aside the devilish functions of illness. As if by a miracle, he regained his health and, in March the following year, took leadership of a monthlong general pilgrimage to celebrate the completion of the Grand Lecture Hall at the head temple. By way of the ceremony of March 16 held during that pilgrimage, he entrusted to the youth of the Soka Gakkai, of which I was then one, full responsibility for the future of kosen-rufu. Only a short time later, he died.

During that time, President Toda kept me continually by his side, pouring his life into training and tutoring me until the very end. Each of those days remains for me a rich and glowing golden memory. Each word my mentor uttered at that time contains his will and testament to us and serves as an eternal guide to illuminate the future.

Indeed, the record of President Toda’s life and achievements portrayed in this 12th volume is significant in that it constitutes the period of his life that is most essential to be conveyed to posterity. It is imbued with numerous and splendid guidelines and instructions that will be applicable for countless generations to come.

Originally, I had intended to finish volume 12 of The Human Revolution with the events surrounding President Toda’s death. But I felt that would have been far too sad. Considering that my mentor’s spirit had grown into a great river of kosen-rufu, and that that flow must be perpetuated, I felt I should somehow end this volume with a ray of hope for the future. It was with this in mind that I added the chapter “New Dawn,” ending with Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s inauguration as the third president of the Soka Gakkai. For this reason, the length of the manuscript for volume 12 surpasses that of previous volumes, and I hope the reader will excuse this additional abundance of text.

President Toda died at 58; were he alive today, he would be 93 as of this writing. Now I, his disciple, having myself suffered from illness and a weak constitution, have surpassed him in years. I can only feel that he has bequeathed the remaining portion of his life to me. What I feel I must do now is fight on in my mentor’s stead for the sake of world peace and the happiness of humankind, survive and fulfill my mission in this life. This is the path I must follow as a disciple, to repay my debt of gratitude to my mentor. It is the path of human revolution that he forged for us. As I proceed along this lofty and noble path of the Soka Gakkai, President Toda continues to live on in my heart. I can only pray that he will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all our fellow members.

The Author
February 11, 1993
The day of my mentor’s birth
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil